Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Valentine Heart Sugar Cookies - Part 2
I'm back with part 2 of my valentines cookie-decorating posts - yesterday I shared my family recipe for sugar cookie dough and the steps to bake them. Today I'm going to share decorating tips, although as I started writing this post I realized that it would really be too long for a single post, so I am going to cover most of it today and then wrap up tomorrow. Today I'll focus on the basic icing technique and piped designs, and tomorrow will be about the cookies with the fun swirly/marbled designs.
The way we have usually iced cookies in my family is to make icing that is not too runny and spread it on with a small knife. If you get it the right consistency, you can spread it so the edges look nice and it stays on the cookie without running all over the place, but it kind of smooths out and doesn't look like you just spread it on. Then we usually make somewhat thicker icing in just white for piping. This system works pretty well, but it doesn't allow you to do some of the fun designs that I made for these valentines cookies, especially the swirly designs. So for these cookies I used the more complicated technique of piping an outline and then flooding it with runny icing from squeeze bottles to fill in the center. Prudent Baby has a good overview of this technique here.
Unlike that tutorial, though, I didn't use royal icing - I used basically the same recipe I posted here, but about doubled so I would have enough to make 3 colors of icing, each in a thicker consistency for piping and a thinner consistency for flooding. I actually have never made royal icing but my sense is that it is kind of like fondant - great looking but not so great tasting. This icing isn't as fabulous for decorating (and I think I made my flood icing a bit too thin - aim to have it about the consistency of yogurt I think), but it is really quite tasty. It also gets a kind of grainy look sometimes, especially when you use a lot of food coloring or thin it out a lot, it seems (you can see it in the top pictures showing the darker cookies). In any case, I am a firm believer in the idea that sugar cookies should taste as good as they look so I will forgive this icing its faults. In the interest of a fair comparison, however, I bought meringue powder today so that I can try out royal icing when I make the second half of this batch of cookies, so I will report back on how that goes.
The first step is to pipe the outlines of where you want to ice. For most of the cookies, I just wanted to lay down a base layer of icing over the whole cookie in a single color, so I piped an outline close to the edge. I also made some cookies where I wanted a solid heart in the center surrounded by uniced cookie, so I piped a smaller heart in those. Then I also made some cookies (shown on the bottom left) where I piped an outer edge and an inner heart, so that I could flood with two different colors of icing.
The flooding is pretty simply, and you don't have to wait until the piping is totally dry, just until it has set up a bit and isn't likely to give way and let the icing out. To flood the center, I covered about 1/2 to 2/3 of the area and then used the tip of the squeeze bottle to push it into all the uncovered spots. If you wanted thicker icing you could certainly use more.
This shows how I made the cookies with two different flood colors. It is pretty much the same technique but you do want to let the first flood layer dry a bit before you go back and add the second one, otherwise they could run into eachother (which mine did a bit, I didn't wait long enough).
I really liked how the lefthand cookie above looked so I left it as is, but you could go back once it sets up a bit and pipe a design on top. The righthand cookie above was one with a heart in the center where I went back and piped on top once it had dried.
Most of the cookies that had a heart in the center I used to make these cookies that were intended to look like lace or doilies, with an intricate decorative border around them. I only used white piping (this is with a #2 tip) but these would also be fun using a contrasting color for the piping. You can see I tried out a couple different types of borders and I am sure you can think of more! I like the polka dot heart center and I also tried crosshatching across the heart, which I thought looked a little too busy (not shown) but that is worth a try too.
These are some cookies that I left bare and then piped designs straight on the cookie. This is another option if you want to do a fancy looking cookie but are offput by the idea of putting down a base layer of icing and then also piping a design - this would certainly be faster. I think all of these designs would also look nice on an iced background too, and probably nicer. FYI the red piping was done with a #4 tip which I think is larger than ideal but I couldn't find the second #3 tip I could have sworn I bought.
I had a lot of fun making the conversation hearts, I wish I had made more colors but the logistics of making two thicknesses of each color made that hard to do. If you just want to make conversation hearts I would skip the pipe and flood method and just make one thickness of each color to spread on, so that you could do more colors. I looked up conversation heart sayings online (see here and here) but ended up deciding to stick to some of the more traditional messages rather than getting into "text me" or any of that.
Don't forget to come back tomorrow if you want to learn how to make the swirly/marbled designs!
How about you - how do you ice your cookies - pipe and flood, spread it on, or another way? And do you use royal icing or another recipe?